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Children’s charities: The next PM must implement care review recommendations

Leading children’s charities have urged the next prime minister to place vulnerable children at the heart of government.

In an open letter to the final two candidates hoping to become the next leader of the Conservative Party and the UK’s next Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss, the charities warn that spending on late intervention services have soared by more than 37% over the last decade, from £6bn to £8.2bn, skewing the system towards crisis intervention.

This means that all too often families cannot access help with problems such as mental health, domestic abuse, or drug and alcohol misuse until it is too late.

“If elected, we call on you to put vulnerable children at the heart of your government by prioritising the implementation of the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care,” the letter said.

“Children’s social care is a vital public service that helps families stay together and protects children from harm. But it is not working. Every year, more families are being torn apart and children are being seriously hurt or even killed. Every year, the system grows more expensive for local authorities, forcing them to overspend on overstretched budgets,” added the letter from NCB, NSPCC, Barnardo’s, The Children’s Society and Action for Children.

Both candidates are being urged to commit to implementing the independent review of children’s social care’s recommendations as promised by the end of this year.

The review, led by Josh MacAlister, found the social care system is currently increasingly skewed to crisis intervention, with outcomes for children that continue to be unacceptably poor and costs that continue to rise, concluding that radical reform needs to happen urgently.

A revolution in family help is urged providing families with much higher levels of meaningful support. The review’s ambition is that multi-disciplinary teams would deliver the new service made up of professionals such as family support workers, domestic abuse workers and mental health practitioners – who would work alongside social workers, provide support and cut down on referring families onto other services. The Family Help teams would be based in community settings, like schools and family hubs.

Family Support has been a priority for WillisPalmer over the last few years in recognition that, without early intervention, problems escalate and become entrenched and more complex. A dearth of early help services has left local authorities fire-fighting crises.

“Many of the early help and preventative services were being pared back prior to COVID and the pandemic exacerbated this further,” explains Dave Wareham, Head of Services at WillisPalmer. “But early intervention with families can achieve change before problems become complex and more difficult to manage.”

“We introduced a stand-alone Family Support Service for families experiencing challenges, whether that is new parents requiring practical guidance and support around meeting the care needs of a newborn or parents of teenagers struggling with challenging behaviour. Having Family Support Workers based in the family home and available to help, advise and support can make all the difference to many families,” said Dave.

“We also have Family Support Work as part of our Multi-disciplinary Family Assessment where a team of professionals including Independent Social Workers, psychologists, psychiatrists and therapists assess parents while Family Support Workers stay in the family home to provide guidance and support while making observations of progress in order to feed back into the assessment,” he added.

“These interventions work really well with families. We know that local authorities’ budgets are so tight that often social workers only get to meet parents at crisis point when problems are more difficult to overcome . The independent review is right to place such importance on family support because intervening earlier prevents problems escalating in the longer term and therefore proves to be a cost-effective model which is better for local authorities and, more importantly, children,” Dave added.

The independent review highlighted that in the next ten years, there will be approaching 100,000 children in care, up from 80,000 today, and a flawed system will cost over £15 billion per year, up from £10 billion now.

Furthermore, young people who grow up in care are three times less likely to be in education, employment or training by the time they reach 19.

The open letter says: “If you become Prime Minister, we urge you to commit to prioritising implementation of the Review. We owe it to young people to create a better system that provides the care, stability and love everyone needs while growing up.

“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to radically reform the children’s social care system in England so that fewer children enter the system and those who do are provided with the best possible care. Our charities stand ready to work with you to put vulnerable children at the heart of your government,” the letter concluded.

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